British government refuses entry to peaceful young Palestinian
For IDF fear of peaceful protest see Palestinians create three more peace protest camps, fearful IDF destroys them
Saeed Amireh in Stockholm, on his 2011 speaking tour of Europe. See second article.
The advice to residents of the oPt by the UK Border Agency is:
All applications are sent to and decided by UK Border Agency staff at the British Embassy in Amman, Jordan. The staff at the British Consulate General in Jerusalem, the British Information and Services Office and the British Council Office in Ramallah play no part in the outcome of your visa application and are unable to influence it in any way.
The UKBA is an agency of the Home Office and comes under the authority of Home Secretary Theresa May whose history of over-reliance on the CST for information and attempts to deny entry to, imprison, and deport Raed Salah amongst others have been reported on this website at:
The UK-Israel plan to get Raed Salah banned and deported failed. Why?,
Home Secretary gets her laws and agents in a muddle
Raed Salah wins appeal against deportation ‘on all grounds’,
‘Charity’ denounces anti-Zionist British Jews to Home Office,
How the CST got the Home Secretary’s ear,
Great British bungle: damages due to wrongly detained Sheikh Salah,
UK doors open wide for IDF General, clang shut for Palestinian leader
By Amena Saleem, Electronic Intifada
February 12, 2013
The double standards of the British government in relation to Palestine and Israel were laid bare yesterday with the news that Palestinian activist Saeed Amireh has been refused a visa to visit the UK.
Amireh, a member of the popular committee in his West Bank village of Nilin, was due to begin a speaking tour that would have taken him from the south coast of England to Dunblane in Scotland, speaking to the network of branches of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and university Palestine societies. In London, he was due to speak alongside Sami Abu Shehadeh, of the Jaffa Popular Committee for the Defence of Land and Housing Rights, in a meeting organized by PSC and Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
However, a government which, in 2011, changed the law to make it easier for Israeli war criminals to enter the UK, yesterday denied Amireh, a peaceful campaigner against the Israeli occupation and the theft of Nilin’s land, the right of entry. He was told he hadn’t provided “enough supporting documents,” even though he had supplied everything that was asked for, including a letter of invitation and guarantee of his costs being paid from PSC.
Amireh, 21, is used to struggle. At the age of 17, as he was about to take his final school exams, he was imprisoned by the Israeli authorities for four and a half months. A year earlier, he had been demonstrating against the wall which is destroying Nilin when the Israeli army began shooting live rounds. A 10-year-old child, Ahmed Moussa, was shot in the head. As he fell, Amireh rushed to catch him and has described his shock as he held the boy while he bled to death, his brain falling out of his skull.
Amireh has spoken in Europe and Australia about these experiences and the nonviolent resistance of the people of Nilin against the wall and illegal settlements which have stolen the village’s land, reducing it from 5,800 dunnums to 800. The village is surrounded by five settlements, and an apartheid road, off-limits to Palestinians, cuts through its heart. In preparation for a total closure, the Israeli army has begun constructing a tunnel that will take Palestinians in and out of Ni’lin at set times of the day.
It is these truths, this personal telling of the atrocities of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, that the British government has stopped Amireh from recounting to its citizens in England and Scotland by denying him a visa.
In contrast, when the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came to power in May 2010, it almost immediately began work on changing the legislation around universal jurisdiction – the principle which allows a person accused of war crimes to be prosecuted in any country, regardless of where the alleged offense was committed.
This action followed the serving of an arrest warrant on Tzipi Livni, one of the masterminds of Israel’s massacre in Gaza in 2008-09, by pro-Palestinian lawyers when it was heard that she planned on visiting London in December 2009. The visit subsequently didn’t go ahead.
In April 2010, a month before the general election in Britain, the then opposition Conservative Party ran a full page advert in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper. The ad was headlined: “A Conservative Government would protect the Jewish Community and Britain’s relationship with Israel.”
It continued: “Under Labour, Israelis can’t visit the UK without fear of arrest and imprisonment.” Several pledges followed underneath, the first of which stated: “Universal Jurisdiction will be amended at the earliest opportunity to enable Israelis to visit the UK.”
On being elected a month later, the Conservatives, with their coalition Lib-Dem partners, stayed true to their word. A bill, which included terms to amend universal jurisdiction, began its passage through Parliament and, in September 2011, became the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. In October 2011, protected by both the act and “special mission” status granted especially for the occasion by the government, Livni flew into London to meet with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
By changing the law to facilitate the visit of Livni and other Israelis fearful of being served with arrest warrants for war crimes, while barring Amireh, the British government has made its position clear. Israeli politicians who sanction the slaughter of children and women are welcome in this country, while Palestinians who peacefully resist an illegal occupation are not.
Amireh had been invited to visit Sir Bob Russell, the Member of Parliament for Colchester, in Parliament, while in England. That visit will not now take place. His case is already being taken up, including by John Austin, former MP for Erith and Thamesmead, who tweeted today:
You intervened personally to allow alleged war criminal Livni into UK. Intervene now to allow non-violent Saeed Amireh entry
12:19 PM – 12 Feb 13
Other governments have not been so fearful of Amireh’s presence in their country, or of his words. In mid-January he returned to Nilin following a three-month speaking tour which saw him tell the story of Palestine’s resistance in Sweden, Finland, Germany, France Spain and Italy.
In France, he was featured in Paris Match online and in the pages of La Croix newspaper; in Sweden he took part in a national radio debate on G4S, the security firm which provides services to Israeli prisons and checkpoints in the West Bank. And in March 2012, he spoke in Australia.
The British government, however, has been showing its colors since coming to power in 2010. During Israel’s assault on Gaza in November 2012, in which 170 Palestinians were killed in eight days, Hague told news channels: “… it is Hamas that bears principal responsibility for starting all of this.” This one-sided position was confirmed over coming months by subsequent letters from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to PSC and other activists.
In June 2011, Sheikh Raed Salah, the Palestinian civil rights and religious leader, was arrested during a speaking tour in the UK and informed that he was banned from the country under the orders of the Home Secretary, Theresa May.
Salah took the case to court and, a year later, the vice-president of the Upper Immigration Tribunal threw out all charges against him. The vice-president noted that May had been misled as to the facts around Salah — facts, which the court heard, had principally been provided by the Community Security Trust, whose motto is “Protecting the Jewish Community.”
Sad and shocked
Amireh, then, is in good company. He is not the first Palestinian to be treated as less than equal by the British government and he won’t be the last. His pain, however, is raw and immediate. His statement on being told of his refusal yesterday said it all:
I am so sad today and so angry and shocked at how these people could be like that. No embassy has been ever like this with me and all my previous travel all over the world to so many different countries is proof that I am not intending to leave my beloved country.
Please please apologize to all groups and organizations that have arranged and invited me. As much as I was so excited to come to the UK, not only because of the tour, but for many other reasons as well, my heart is in shock, and sad, and feeling depressed and insulted, because this justification and permission to travel and speak and to leave our country is not required from anyone in the world except for us Palestinians who are not recognized and cannot travel freely.
I have many times wished to get another nationality to be able to travel freely because of the suffering and difficulties we face. But at the end I come back to say still, how proud I am for being a Palestinian, the system will never stop this love. You cannot imagine what kind of insulting manners and words I accepted while I was applying to the UK embassy just because of the fight for Palestine! But I will never stop and I hope you will hear this and understand why this fight for justice is so important to me and so many others.
I am so sorry I could not be there to meet you all. One day soon I hope we can find a way for me to be there with you, or even better, to meet you all here, in a free Palestine!
By Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada
August 23, 2012
Saeed Amireh, an activist who has helped put his occupied West Bank village of Nilin on the solidarity radar, turned 20 last September on a plane taking him to Sweden for a European speaking tour. It was Amireh’s first trip outside Palestine.
“I’ve never been to Hebron, Bethlehem, Qalqiliya or any other city in Palestine besides Ramallah and Nilin,” Amireh recounted. “Once I got to Sweden, I was completely shocked. I could not say a single word for the first two weeks; I spent the first two weeks crying because you could feel how there is a huge difference” between life in Europe and life under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank.
“I got the taste of sleeping without [fear], walking the street without checkpoints and being stopped by anyone,” Amireh said. “Here you always have to have your ID with you in case of any checkpoint or if anyone stops you and arrests you. … I could taste temporary freedom for three months.”
Though Amireh says he received a tempting offer to stay in Europe, which he acknowledges is no utopia, it was this taste of freedom that motivated him to return to Nilin and “tell my people, my village and all of my friends about [the freedom] we are fighting for. All our generations were born under occupation. We are fighting for freedom and liberation, but we don’t know how it tastes on the ground.”
For Amireh, the struggle for Palestine means building the grassroots movement in Nilin, spreading it to other villages, and “building a strong [social] system that includes even the cultural life in the village” to combat Israel’s thorough assault on all aspects of Palestinian life.
Nearly a decade of struggle against the wall
The popular resistance against the wall and settlements in Nilin started spontaneously in 2003 when villagers joined confrontations in the nearby village of Budrus to prevent Israeli bulldozers from digging in the land to build the wall. This was before popular committees began to be formed throughout the West Bank, before Israeli and international activists joined protests, and before any attention was paid by the media.
“We gathered people from all the villages and we went to protest the building of the apartheid wall [in Budrus],” Amireh recounted.
“The soldiers put a line in front of us, and they told us, if you cross this line, consider yourself dead. We held each other’s hands — men and women, there were dozens of women at that time — and we counted one, two, three and we jumped on the line together, all of us. And the soldiers could not kill all of us, and they became afraid because they knew that if we could break all the fears again, and do this, this struggle will be stronger,” he said.
A year later, the bulldozers came to Nilin, and villagers protested daily, camping out for more than a month to prevent Israeli forces from digging on the land. This prevented the army from building the wall for four years, according to Amireh, and helped the village “save more than 3,000 dunums [a dunum is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters] of our land which was supposed to be confiscated by the wall.”
But the army came back in July of 2008 “with so much anger and so much preparation for collective suppression,” Amireh recalled. The military imposed four consecutive days of curfew on the village, began conducting regular night raids and arrest campaigns and used brutal force against the village’s now weekly protests, led by a popular committee whose leaders were targeted for arrest.
Five villagers killed in one year
Several residents of this small village have been killed by the army during the ongoing weekly protests. Amireh spoke with The Electronic Intifada in late June, shortly after the village marked the anniversary of the killing of 36-year-old Aqil Srour, who was shot in the heart by Israeli forces on 9 June 2009 during the weekly demonstration. A .22 bullet pierced Srour’s chest as he attempted to retrieve a 16-year-old boy who had been shot in the stomach. Srour died on the way to the hospital. The youngest of his four children, Ramees, had yet to be born.
Saeed Amireh and others have carefully documented the struggle in their village. A video uploaded to YouTube shows Srour wounded in the chest and a resident of the village — with remarkable calm — asking an Israeli soldier why the army is present in the village, and why they shot Aqil Srour after they had shot a boy in the stomach.
The Israeli soldier dispassionately replies, with an M16 rifle draped across his chest, “after the injury of the first one, you started throwing stones and the soldier felt threatened.”
Four other residents of Nilin were killed during the weekly protests in the space of one year — 9-year-old Ahmed Moussa, 17-year-old Youssef Amireh, 23-year-old Arafat Khawaje and 18-year-old Muhammad Khawaje. There have been hundreds more injuries, some of them resulting in permanent disability.
“Whenever they [the Israeli army] leave, and they leave the empty bullets, it’s written on the cartons, ‘Made in USA,’” Saeed Amireh pointed out.
Amireh described the killing of Ahmed Moussa: “I was close to him at the time [the army shot him]; I was 16 and a half years old. When I carried Ahmad to the ambulance, his brain fell out of his head onto my hands, and then I fell down [out of shock].”
He added, “Despite the killing, the next day we made a demonstration and condemned [the army’s brutality] at Ahmad’s funeral. And on the same day, they killed another guy, he’s from my family, one of my best friends, his name is Yousef Amireh. [They shot him] in his head with two rubber-coated steel bullets, and he died in a hospital bed four days later.”
Arafat and Mohammed Khawaje were both shot in the head with live ammunition in December 2008, during a protest against Israel’s slaughter in Gaza. A US activist, Tristan Anderson, was critically wounded by Israeli forces during a 2009 protest and is permanently disabled from injury to his brain.
Children targeted for arrest
Saeed Amireh has been shot at several times himself, and was arrested in December 2008 when he was 17 years old and in his last year of secondary school.
“In terms of our study, your future depends on this year,” Amireh said. “I was on a scientific [track] and my average was more than 95 percent; by arresting me they were targeting my future as well as punishing my father, who is one of the organizers of this struggle of unarmed protest against the wall” (Amireh recounted his father’s arrest for The Electronic Intifada two years ago).
Children are targeted for arrest, Amireh said, because Israeli forces have greater success in coercing them to sign false statements used to incriminate and arrest the popular committee leadership for “illegal protest” or being in a closed military area.
“[The army] makes a very huge campaign of late night raids with [mass] arrests, like they did in 2008 and 2009 and 2010. In the last four years they have been doing the same system of arresting between 40 to 50, sometimes 60 persons from the village,” Amireh explained.
According to Amireh, many of those who have been recently arrested in the village were detained during the last wave of arrests, which upon their release the Israeli court forbade them from joining the protests for the next two or three years. By criminalizing protest, Israel creates a revolving-door prison system to repress the grassroots movement.
“We join the demonstrations [anyways] because we don’t obey Israeli law, because this is the occupation and the judge is a settler and the lawyer is an Israeli. From where do you get justice? We will never give up despite all these arrests; after they are arrested, the people join the demonstrations again,” Amireh said.
Ethnic cleansing under the radar
Despite the killings, and despite the repression, Amireh maintains that he and others in the village will continue to struggle for Nilin’s very existence.
“They don’t want to kill and massacre us as they did in 1948, the Nakba, and the Naksa,” Amireh said, referring to the dispossession of historic Palestine with the establishment of the state of Israel, and the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza following the 1967 war. “They just want to kill the source of existence for the people, so that the people leave on their own.” In Palestine, where agriculture is the main industry, that means preventing people from working their lands.
Amireh added that the population of Nilin — located in Area C of the West Bank, meaning that it is under full Israeli military control — has greatly diminished as a result of Israeli colonization and oppression. The current “total inhabitants is about 5,000 of a total of 12,000 because there are 7,000 who have left the village since 1967,” emigrating to nearby towns or further afield in Germany, where the Palestinian diplomatic representative is from Nilin and a relative of Amireh.
“Our village land was more than 58,000 dunums and now we have just 8,000 dunums” as a result of the five settlement colonies surrounding the village and Israel’s wall and roads for settlement use only.
Village tears down wall
“Nothing is going to stop our quest for freedom,” Amireh said. “Even the Berlin wall fell, and this wall will fall. And we succeeded to do it several times [destroy parts of Israel’s wall].”
On the same day that villagers tore down part of the wall in Bilin village in October 2009, residents in Nilin managed to dismantle part of the wall built on their land. Israel has since fortified the wall so now there is an electronic fence, a concrete wall and a wall of barbed wire cutting the village off from their agricultural land.
“Despite this, we start to burn tires, wheels, at the concrete wall … and we start to throw water at the concrete after it becomes hot, and start to make holes. So there are several holes now in the concrete wall,” Amireh explained.
Direct confrontation with the wall and army is just one of many means of struggle that the village must draw upon, according to Amireh.
“We are living under occupation; we have the right to resist by all means,” he said. “But we see [grassroots struggle] as the most effective strategy the Palestinians have ever used … We want to expand this strategy of struggle all over the West Bank so that there can be real pressure from inside the Palestinian land against the occupation, like how it was during the first intifada” in the late 1980s.
Pressure from outside
There is a need for pressure from the outside, too, Amireh explained, adding that people around the world need to “wake up and be aware of what is going on … it’s everybody’s duty to help us end this occupation, because part of your taxes in America, in Europe goes to support this occupation, and as long as this occupation is getting funded, it will never end.”
Towards this end, Amireh spoke in Australia earlier this year (his second trip outside Palestine) and is about to embark on a several-month speaking tour of Europe this fall. He hopes to travel to the US next year to raise awareness about what happens on the ground in Palestine and doesn’t get covered in the international media.
But awareness needs to be translated into action. Boycott is a key means of putting pressure on Israel from outside, and Amireh has been involved in cultural boycott campaigns urging international stars to cancel their Tel Aviv concerts. Amireh and a relative appear in a video which shows their attempt to travel to Madonna’s concert earlier this year only to be prevented by Israel’s infrastructure of occupation.
“Israel is aware of this pressure that comes from outside and from inside, and they try to suppress this struggle by all means,” Amireh said. “There are future challenges for our struggle to make it strong.”
These include breaking “fears and silence” in the international arena and, in Palestine, overcoming political division and building strong social networks at the grassroots level.
“We are fought from our culture, we are fought from our education; Israel is controlling everything and they’re changing everything for [their benefit],” Amireh said.
Young Palestinians like Saeed Amireh are dedicating their lives to finding innovative ways to challenge this system of control so one day it will be a thing of the past.
Maureen Clare Murphy is managing editor of The Electronic Intifada.
More news about Ni’lin village can be found on their website